Standing ovations and Oscar buzz are nothing new for Hollywood legend Robert Redford, who announced earlier this summer that “The Old Man and The Gun,” now screening at the Toronto International Film Festival and shot in Cincinnati, would be his last as an actor. If it’s true, the man who made you root for the bad guy in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” comes full circle as the pleasant and polite bank robber with a heart of gold in “The Old Man and The Gun.”
The movie is based on the real-life story of Forrest Tucker, whose tale of robberies and jail breakouts first was told in an article in “The New Yorker.” The film, being shown as a special presentation this week at TIFF, also stars Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Casey Affleck and is directed by David Lowery. The movie was shot in and around Greater Cincinnati last year, transforming the city and environs into Texas, Oklahoma and other locations (Cincinnati residents will recognize one particular landmark—in one scene Carew Tower’s concourse plays a prominent role).
“Old Man and The Gun is an incredibly moving motion picture experience,” said Kristen Schlotman, executive director of Film Cincinnati. “Knowing it is Redford's final time on screen, and knowing he spent that time in Cincinnati, is something you won't want to miss.”
After its screening Monday night at the film festival, the cast and director joined the audience for a quick discussion of the movie with Redford, who’s also a producer of the movie, explaining why he chose this subject. “It just fit with my sensibility,” he said. “I’ve always been attracted to the idea of outlaws, I’ve played that out in my work a lot, and this just followed suit.”
Spacek said the process of making the movie with Redford was a seamless one. “We never rehearsed,” she said. “We just kind of sat down and did it.”
Redford jumped in, “You have to explain what that means,” as the audience laughed.
“Scenes,” she explained, “we did scenes! Gosh.”
Lowery said that he talked with the cast quite a bit before shooting. “And I was just crossing my fingers that the chemistry I anticipated between everybody would actually be there.”
Redford said that was particularly important between his character and Affleck’s, the police officer focused on arresting Tucker. “The relationship that I had with Casey, and what he represented, he was the predator. And I represented the prey. And I’ve always been very attracted to the idea of the dynamic between predator and prey.
“The prey knows the predator’s going to come after him. And the predator knows he’s eventually going to get him. But in that contest, there’s a mutual understanding that becomes almost like a friendship. We understand what’s going on here, so maybe we can enjoy it. That’s how I felt about working with Casey’s character.”
The movie, set in the 1980s, looks very much like it was made 30 years ago, not just through the sets, but the film itself, shot not digitally but in 16mm. Lowery said that’s no accident. “I didn’t want the film to feel steeped in nostalgia but I wanted it to feel as if it was made in a different era, and the best way to do that is to the use the technology that was used back then. Obviously, the production design, the costumes, everything’s from that era, but the equipment we were using, trying to find a more old-fashioned way to approach the natural production.
“There’s a very tangible thing that happens when you’re on set and you hear film whirring through the camera, everybody just takes it a little more seriously because you just know that something is being captured at that moment.”
See more about the Cincinnati-made movie at TIFF at https://www.tiff.net/tiff/old-man-and-the-gun/